Drug, gang relationships can often in murder

Innocent victims die because they're in the wrong place at the wrong time

Research by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) has found that if you are 30, a male and have a violent criminal past, your probability of becoming a victim of a gang-related murder increases substantially.

Led by Dr. Gerry Stearns, CFSEU-BC’s Policy and Strategic Directions section reviewed the nature and character of gang-related homicides in Metro Vancouver municipalities, including the City of Chilliwack from 2006 to 2010.

The victim’s age, gender, previous criminal background, gang affiliations, location of body, and cause of death were some of the factors reviewed by the researchers. The research paints a grim picture for those who become involved in organized crime and gangs – whether they are on the periphery, linked to it through direct associations, or actual members.

A typical gang-related homicide victim is about 30 years old, and primarily male. During the four-year study, 118 people -112 men and six women – were murdered. While most of the victims were about 30, other victims ranged in age from 17 to 59.

CFSEU-BC’s researchers found the vast majority of victims had previous charges or convictions involving drugs with the highest number in the trafficking category.

Many of the victims also had violent criminal pasts. Equally compelling, the majority of victims were members of a gang, not just associates or minor players.

“At the time, these young men and women were murdered, nearly 30 per cent of them were gang or organized crime members,” notes Stearns.

The most common membership came from the independent Soldiers (seven), the Red Scorpions (seven) and the United Nations Gang (five). Others held membership in a variety of groups, including Persian and Asian organized crime and the Hells Angels, she says.

“The rest of the victims were non-members but associated to the gang, or were girlfriends. Most disturbing, some of those killed were innocent bystanders caught unaware in the middle of a gang war.”

One of those victims was Jonathan Barber who was killed in 2008, after he picked up a vehicle in which he was going to install a custom stereo system. The car belonged to one of the notorious Bacon brothers who were allegedly being targeted by other gang members at the time. Barber, 23 at the time of his death, was not involved in any criminal activity, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

CSFEU-BC’s research also showed many of the victims were murdered in places familiar to them, such as near their vehicles, near their homes or in their own neighbourhoods.

Mirroring their own violent past, the degree of the violence the victims suffered was staggering with the majority of the victims (84.8 per cent) shot, followed by eight per cent who were viciously beaten and 5.9 per cent who were stabbed. One person was found burned to death.

CFSEU-BC research found that virtually every community in Metro Vancouver has been touched by gang violence either through murders in their neighbourhoods or by their own residents being killed, Stearns explains.

“This kind of research, gives us a baseline of the level and degree of fatal gang-related violence we are experiencing today in British Columbia.”

Who is involved?

• The average age of a Person of Interest (POI) in a gang crime is about 36 years old.

• Almost all POIs are men and range in age between 19 at the youngest to 65 for the oldest.

• POIs are mostly likely to become leaders when they are in their late twenties to early thirties.

• About 41 per cent of all POIs had a criminal conviction.

• POIs are often on record for violence, armed and/or dangerous behaviour.

• Other POIs are often charged or convicted of criminal offences, including assault, frauds, firearms, impaired driving, trafficking, production, distribution and possession of drugs.